Repeating and disappearing dialogue line-up

Sarah Forbes, Kanazawa Technical College

Quick guide

  • Keywords: Movement, speaking
  • Learner English level: All levels
  • Learner maturity: All ages, but recommended for high school and up
  • Preparation time: 1 to 2 minutes
  • Activity time: 10 to 20 minutes
  • Materials: Whiteboard/chalkboard, whiteboard marker/chalk, eraser, open space

How many times have you looked around the classroom first thing in the morning or after lunch and noticed your students nodding off or getting that glazed look in their eyes as you try to introduce the day’s activities? At such times, activities that get students up and moving around are key. This activity is tried and true, and can be accomplished with almost no materials. Combining the concept of “disappearing dialogue” (Thornbury, 2005) and a line-up activity, it can be adapted to practice almost any language point. The beauty of the activity is that it gets students moving while practicing language again and again for better retention and later usage. 


Step 1: Decide upon a dialogue or a set of questions to have students review and practice. Write these on the board and, if necessary, review with students. You could also have students decide upon a topic and/or elicit a dialogue with questions from them. 


Step 1: Explain to students that they will line-up in two lines facing each other. Count them off in twos until everyone has a number. The ones will all line up facing the twos in the next step. Tell students they will practice the dialogue or questions on the whiteboard with the person across from them, taking turns with roles in the dialogue or asking the questions. You can also add other conversational features for students to practice here, such as eye contact, or natural responses (e.g., Oh, really?)

Step 2: Decide on a time limit for the conversation. 1 or 2 minutes is usually good, but this will depend on the students’ level and the kind of dialogue they are practicing. You do not want the time to be so short that they cannot complete the dialogue or so long that they run out of material.

Step 3: Ask students to line up. Once they are all facing each other, make sure they are at a good chatting distance from their partner and not too close to their neighbors, space permitting. Designate one line of students to be the “movers.” These students will all shift in one direction once the timer chimes. Set your timer for the designated time, and shout, “Go!”

Step 4: As students practice their dialogue, circulate around the room to help with pronunciation, flow, or just to offerwords of encouragement. Once the timer rings, ask the line of movers to shift one person to their left. They will now have a new partner. Start the timer again. Repeat several times.

Step 5: When you think students are comfortable with the dialogue or questions, start erasing words or phrases from the board. This puts a bit of helpful pressure on students to recall from memory what they need to say. They can help one another remember. After each move, erase a bit more until, when students are on their final partners, they are producing the entire dialogue or question set from memory. 

Step 6: When students get back to their original partner, the activity is finished. A good follow-up would be to ask the whole class or students in pairs to reproduce the now invisible dialogue or set of questions. Or, now with students feeling energized and capable, you can get back to your scheduled curriculum.


When students are moving, they are awake and alert. This encourages concentration, memory, and learning. Repetition is another key factor for memory. This activity gives students an opportunity to get active and repeat selected language until they are familiar and confident with it. 


Thornbury, S. (2005.) How to teach speaking. London: Pearson Education Limited.